THE REPORT OF THE NYC PUBLIC EDUCATION PARENT & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROJECT
WORKING COMMITTEE OF THE PARENT & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROJECT
V ISION : Eff ec t iv e p ar e n t an d fami ly en ga g e m en t is cri t ica l to b ui ld i ng t h e w or ld -cl ass sch o ol sy st e m N ew Y or k er s wan t f or t h ei r ch il dr e n. R es ear ch an d ex p er i en ce d em o ns t ra t e t ha t w he n sc h oo ls an d d i st ric t s e ng ag e p ar e n ts , fa mi li es , a n d co m mu n it i es as e qu al pa r t ne rs, ch il dr e n fl o ur is h . NYC voters elected a mayor who shares this vision. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio defines parent, family and community engagement as an imperative “for creating great schools in every neighborhood and preparing all children for success in college and careers.” The new mayor is committed to “increasing and improving parent participation in decision-making at the school level and at the Department of Education.” To support this commitment, the Fund for Public Advocacy’s Parent and Community Engagement Project aims to improve student academic achievement and social/emotional development by advancing effective collaboration between families and educators through school and communitybased partnerships.
E FFECTIVE P ARENT AND C OMMUNITY E NGAGEMENT : The indicators summarized in the following National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) standards for Family-School Partnerships define the vision and scope of the engagement necessary for all children to thrive in their schooling. Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class. Families and school staff engage in regular, meaningful communication about student learning. Families and school staff continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school, and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively. Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success. Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs. Families and school staff collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.
B ACKGROUND OF THE P ARENT & C OMMUNITY E NGAGEMENT P ROJECT : On October 16, 2013, the Fund for Public Advocacy and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform organized a citywide conference on Parent and Community Engagement, hosted by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. Some 150 parent activists, educators, advocates, policy-makers and elected officials participated in workshops, forums, and roundtable discussions. The conference had two
major aims: to showcase a set of effective research-based parent and community engagement programs for the conference participants, and to elicit their recommendations for how the new mayor should improve parent and community engagement throughout the city school system. Recommendations to the new mayor were initially generated in roundtable discussions involving conference participants. The roundtables sought participants’ answers to two specific questions: What should the new mayor do, within current law and regulation, to strengthen parent involvement and community engagement in our city’s public schools? What changes in state laws and regulations should the new mayor seek to improve parent involvement and community engagement in our city’s public schools? Conference participants contributed some 200 suggestions for the new mayor in the ten roundtable discussions. The Working Committee of the conference, composed of experienced parent representatives from Parent Associations, School Leadership Teams, Community Education Councils, citywide parent committees, teacher and principals unions, community-based education and advocacy groups, and other parent organizations, met several times before and after the conference to distill the conference’s suggestions into a succinct set of recommendations to the new mayor. Paula Gavin from the Fund for Public Advocacy headed up the project, working with Norm Fruchter, Anne Henderson and Megan Hester from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. The Working Committee members included: Claudette Agard, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education Teresa Arboleda, Citywide Council on ELLs Sadye Campoamor, Office of the Public Advocate Norm Fruchter, Annenberg Institute for School Reform Paula Gavin, Fund for Public Advocacy Anthony Harmon, United Federation of Teachers Randi Herman, Council of Supervisors and Administrators Megan Hester, Annenberg Institute for School Reform Paula de Kock, Citywide Council on High Schools George Perry, Special Education Reform Project Lori Podvesker, Citywide Council on Special Education Ursulina Ramirez, Office of the Public Advocate Fran Streich, United Federation of Teachers Patrick Sullivan, Panel on Education Policy Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children Ocynthia Williams, Highbridge Community Life Center Th e P a re n t a n d C o mm u ni t y E ng a ge m en t p ro j ec t w as s up p or t e d by t h e g en e ro us c o n tr i bu t i on s of o ur pr es e n ti n g s po ns or , Tr i ni ty W all S tr e e t, a s w el l as c o nf er e nc e s p o ns ors As so cia t i on f or a B e t t er N ew Y or k, Haz e n F o un da t io n , an d P e rr y an d As so c ia te s , a n d r ec ep t i on s p ons o r, S c h ola s tic I nc .
O UR R ECOMMENDATIONS : The following sections present synopses of the national parent engagement models the conference featured and a summary of the recommendations the conference participants offered for the new mayor.
I. PARENT AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT MODELS Effective models of parent engagement are flourishing across the country as well as in NYC. The conference brought together seven successful parent engagement initiatives to present their practices and spark discussion about potential adaptation in the city’s schools. We recommend that the new mayor and Chancellor launch a major effort to build a strong, dynamic parent engagement culture by adapting and supporting nationally effective parent engagement models across the city’s schools. The Department of Education (DOE) could initiate this effort by selecting several promising programs from the national models described below, developing expertise in implementing them, and soliciting a group of interested schools to pilot them. To insure faithful and effective implementation, the DOE must also invest in capacity-building through training, provision of resource materials, and monitoring and evaluation of each phase of the initiative. Those schools selected to implement the pilot programs would form the nucleus of a new systemic parent engagement effort, and would share implementation challenges and strategies, document successes and lessons learned, and improve their initial efforts for wider implementation. The seven national models highlighted below can help ensure that NYC students: 1. Grow up in stimulating home learning environments that encourage early cognitive development and impart kindergarten readiness skills 2. Become proficient in reading and math by third grade, and master the skills they need to be ready for challenging work in middle and high school, through close parent-teacher collaborations that help keep students – especially students with special needs – on track. 3. Have ready access to constructive and stimulating after-school and summer programs that are linked to and supplement what students are learning and doing in class, as well as to social services that support their health and well-being and that of their families. 4. Have teachers who are culturally competent as well as highly qualified, who respect and know how to collaborate closely with their families, and who understand and use resources in their home communities. 5. Stay on track for graduation throughout high school and enroll in classes and programs that will lead to post-secondary education and a meaningful career.
About the Program
# 1: Parent Education and Advocacy for Kindergarten Readiness Abriendo Puertas A program aimed at Latino families 1. Two-generation approach with children ages 0-5, Abriendo begins with parents and Puertas (Opening Doors) aims to supports their role as first increase kindergarten readiness teacher. and strengthen parents’ capacity to 2. Curriculum is based on popular be strong advocates for their education and draws on real children. life experiences of participants. 3. Program is delivered via trainFacilitators model ways to interact the-trainer mode using local with and teach young children at leaders (e.g. teachers, social home, instill early language skills, workers, parent leaders). prepare children for school, and 4. Collaborations with national advocate for them once they get to and regional groups (e.g. school. National Head Start Association, Catholic Charities, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading) have allowed the program to spread via familyserving organizations.
An evaluation by UC/ Berkeley researchers found significant increases for parents in:
Skills and self-confidence to promote learning at home Using practices to promote language and literacy Understanding how their young children learn and how to better prepare their children for school.
Operating in 196 cities and 31 states. http://www.familiesinschools.org/ abriendo-puertas-opening-doors/
# 2: Parent-Teacher Collaboration on Learning Achievement for All This program to increase achievement of special education students was developed by the UK Department for Education and scaled up to 500 schools, administered by the non-profit Achievement for All/3As. AfA has four components, each of which contributes about equally to student gains: 1. Leadership development to improve results of students with special needs 2. Instructional improvement 3. Parent engagement 4. Community resources
The linchpin of the program is collaborative, one-hour ‘Structured Conversations’ between teachers and parents of special needs students held twice a year.
The program is being brought from the United Kingdom to the USA via GEMS Education Solutions.
Results: Special needs students (ES-HS) in the program made The conversations focus on gains 50% higher than the students’ reading and math skills national average, surpassing and follow a set protocol gains both for other special needs designed to build relationships students and for students without and foster two-way special needs. communication. Top-performing schools made gains 325% higher than national results. www.afa3as.org.uk
Title I School-Parent Compact Renewal, via Conversations about Learning Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) Compacts are required under the Title I law. To move them away from boiler-plate language and align them with school improvement plans, CSDE launched a TA effort for local districts and schools. TA is provided on-site by coaches trained by CSDE, backed up by videos and tools on a special website.
1. Teachers meet in grade-level data teams and identify student skills to target 2. Classroom conversations with families focus on how to collaborate to improve those skills. 3. Teachers design workshops and home learning activities that become part of a written school-parent compact. 4. Each grade level has a compact aligned with school improvement goals.
According to a CSDE study using a rating scale, quality of compacts dramatically improved at participating schools. Principals report improved student performance on targeted skills, greater teacher collaboration, and increased family participation. www.SchoolParentCompact.org
Parent-Teacher Home Visit Program (PTHVP) combined with Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT), Flamboyan Foundation, Washington, DC This program, a collaboration with DC public schools, is being scaled up across city schools. PTHVP was developed by Sacramento (CA) Area Congregations Together. APTT was developed in Creighton AZ schools. PTHVP trains teachers to make relationship-building home visits to all families in their classrooms. Teacher and parent participation is voluntary. For the two visits a year, teachers are compensated. APTT replaces traditional parentteacher conferences with three classroom team meetings for parents and a 30-minute personal parent-teacher conference.
After the home visit, teachers hold class meetings that replace the old parent-teacher conference.
Results: The 13 pilot schools using this combined approach made 30% higher gains in reading and 47% higher gains in math, on average, than DCPS public and charter schools.
• Teacher presents performance data for class via PPT • Parents share strategies they Schools report improvement in: use at home • Teacher models additional • Teacher morale and turnover activities families can use, • Grade-level teacher which parents practice collaboration • Teacher gives parents • High school graduation rates individual information about • School climate their own child’s performance. • Parent (especially male) participation in conferences and home learning www.pthvp.org
# 3: Access to After-School and Summer Programs Community Learning Centers Cincinnati Cincinnati school district has established community learning centers (CLCs) in every school in the district. CLCs promote academic learning and offer recreational, social, health, civic and cultural opportunities. These serve students, families and community members of all ages.
1. Community develops a shared vision for the school as the center of the neighborhood. 2. Site-based governance to select and evaluate community partners to realize the vision. 3. Partnership networks in key areas such as health, business enterprise, college access, and environment build capacity and increase access across the system. 4. Resource coordinators at each site implement the CLCs; salary investment in creased ten-fold in valued of programs and services
• Cincinnati is now the highestperforming urban district in Ohio and the first to receive an “effective” rating • High school graduation rates have risen from 51% in 2000 to 81.9% in 2010. • Enrollment has increased and middle class families have returned to neighborhood schools http://www.cpsk12.org/community/clc
# 4: Teacher Support and Parent Career Development Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA): Parent Mentor Program Chicago LSNA partners with schools to recruit parents to assist teachers two hours each day. Parent mentors participate in a week-long leadership training, and then they are assigned to a classroom (not their own child’s) where they are mentored by a teacher.
Parents work one-on-one and in small groups with children. For some parent mentors, the program is a pathway to teacher certification through evening Community Learning Centers and the Grow Your Own Teacher program. After 100 volunteer hours, parent mentors receive a stipend.
Schools become centers of community as families access adult education classes and multiple services; parents have a pathway to teaching and other careers that strengthen teaching quality. Student academic gains have risen steadily over past 10 years: • 35% increase in students’ attaining proficiency • Dropout rate decreased 61% • Graduation rate increased 27% http://www.lsna.net
# 5: Keeping High School Students on Track to Graduate Ninth Grade Outreach Program, Infinite Campus Parent Portal Washoe County/Reno NV Washoe County School District offers program to help low-income and ELL families open an account to access and use the district’s online portal. The teachers union collaborated in program design and implementation.
• A student risk index targets families of 9th graders scoring above 3 on a 10-point scale • District parent involvement facilitators (AmeriCorps volunteers) offer workshops to show families how to use the online portal to monitor their children’s progress • Facilitators also support families to confer with teachers as needed.
After parents of 9th graders deemed “at risk” activated their parent portal account and attended training workshops, 63% of these students earned the necessary credits to be on track for graduation. http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/par ents/infinite-campus
II.RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE PARENT AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 1. PRINCIPALS
Effective school-level parent and community engagement requires principals’ active commitment and strong leadership. Principals should be provided with professional development and training informed by research-based effective programs in parent and community engagement, as well as the necessary resources from the DOE to implement those best practices. Principals’ evaluations by the Community and High School Superintendents should continue to include criteria for effective parent involvement and community engagement. Appropriate measures of parent/community involvement should continue to be considered by the Superintendent in the principal’s evaluation, including parent inputs. 2. PARENT COORDINATORS
Parent Coordinators represent a critical resource for assisting, informing and organizing parents, as well as helping them resolve their children’s schooling needs and improve their children’s schools. The Parent Coordinators must play professional roles, rather than perform clerical tasks. Parent Coordinators must be assigned to all schools, including high schools. Parent Coordinators should report to schools’ principals, and parents should participate jointly with principals in hiring and evaluating them. To help principals and parents assess the performance of Parent Coordinators, accountability and performance metrics must be developed. Parent Coordinators must be trained in all applicable DOE and NYSED regulations, as well as in parent organizing, cultural awareness and sensitivity. District 75 Parent Coordinators must have background and training in Special Education. 3. SCHOOL L EADERSHIP T EAMS (SLT S)
Strengthening the School Leadership Team’s decision-making responsibilities would heighten its ability to effectively engage parent and community constituencies. The SLT will partner with the principal, as described in the Chancellor’s regulation, guiding and supporting the partnership between the principal and SLT. SLTs should make recommendations to their CECs on all school utilization issues, to insure their formal role in school closures, co-locations, and other school space matters. Inclusion of appropriate CBOs on all SLTs should be encouraged. Appropriate training to all SLT members in Chancellor’s and SED Commissioner’s regulations must be provided. Such training should include understanding and using demographic, budget and achievement outcome data; and how to effectively engage school communities to improve student achievement. The effectiveness of SLTs should be considered within the Quality Review process or other methods. District Leadership Teams (DLTs) must support and assist the SLTs’ work.
4. PARENT TRAINING
Given the complex nature of public education, parents need appropriate training to become effective participants in their children’s schooling. Training for parents in leadership positions in PAs and PTAs, as well as for Presidents’ Councils, SLTs, CECs, DLTs, and citywide councils and sub-committees, must be provided regarding all relevant laws and regulations, governance structures, budgets and resource provision, and how schools and school systems can be improved. Training should also include leadership development, self-development, effective strategies for parent outreach, communication, and cultural sensitivity, and how to help build a network for sharing successful practices across schools. Training should be designed with inputs from parents and other stakeholders, as well as from DOE personnel experienced in the research and practice of successful parent involvement. Funding should be mandated for such training and parent leaders must participate in developing the training curriculum, and in leading the training sessions. Translation (of materials and through interpreters) must be provided in all relevant languages. 5. C OMMUNITY SUPERINTENDENTS /COMMUNITY SCHOOL D ISTRICTS
Effective parent and community engagement at school and district levels requires establishing the Community Superintendent’s authority at local sites of expertise and decision -making which parents and community constituencies can engage. Community Superintendents must have authority and responsibility for all the elementary and middle schools located in their geographic districts as well as the authority to hold the networks or alternate structures accountable for providing all schools with the resources that allow the schools to meet the needs of students and families. Schools can contract for support from existing networks in concert with their Community Superintendents, who remain ultimately responsible for the performance of all schools in their districts. Superintendents must have district offices, adequate staffs, and the resources and support from central administration necessary to improve the performance of all their schools, particularly their struggling schools. Community Superintendents should ensure that District Administrators for Special Education, working with the DOE Division on Disabilities and ELL but directly accountable to the Community Superintendents, are responsible for each district’s special needs students and for dealing with their parents’ issues. Community Superintendents are ultimately accountable for the effectiveness of parent, family, and community engagement in their district’s schools and for holding networks or alternate structures accountable for adequately serving parents, families and communities.
6. H IGH SCHOOLS
Effective parent and community engagement at high schools requires borough-based sites of expertise, authority and decision-making which the schooling constituencies can engage. Borough High School Superintendents must have authority and responsibility over all the high schools located in their boroughs, and must have borough offices, adequate staffs, and the resources and support from central administration necessary to improve the performance of all their borough’s high schools, particularly their struggling schools, to meet the needs of their students and families. If networks or alternate structures are offered to high schools by the DOE, in concert with the Borough High School Superintendents, high schools can contract for this support. Principals remain accountable for their schools and the Borough Superintendents maintain overall responsibility for their high schools’ outcomes. Borough High School Superintendents are ultimately responsible for the effectiveness of parent, family and community engagement in their borough’s schools. 7. C OMMUNITY SCHOOLS
The mayor should strive to make neighborhood schools into community schools serving students, parents, and neighborhood residents. A community school engages a variety of public and private partners to provide health care, mental health services, college and vocational counseling, arts and cultural enrichment, sports and recreation, project-based learning and a wide variety of intellectually challenging and stimulating activities that promote students’ learning capacities. Expanded learning time integrates all those growth activities into a seamless school day and school year, dissolving the boundaries between schooling and after-school. The city’s Beacons’ programs, the Children’s Aid Society schools, and the UFT’s community learning schools provide useful local models, and Cincinnati’s system-wide community schools have attracted national attention. Parents and community members should be involved in designing and planning for these schools, based on local community assets and priorities. 8. C OMMUNITY EDUCATION COUNCILS (CEC)*
The CEC’s effectiveness, power and responsibilities can be significantly strengthened within existing state law. The CECs should formally respond to recommendations by their district’s SLTs on all school utilization issues -- new schools, school closings and school co-locations. The CECs should make formal recommendations to the PEP on all school utilization issues within their districts. The CECs’ scope of powers and responsibilities should be clearly defined, and qualifications and requirements for CEC members should be promulgated. CECs must coordinate and collaborate with Community Superintendents, and participate in their evaluations.
9. C HANCELLOR AND DOE L EADERSHIP
Effective parent and community engagement requires visionary leadership from the Chancellor. The Chancellor must be an educator with a clear vision for and commitment to strengthening parent and community engagement, collaboration and partnership. The Chancellor’s job description must be publicized. The Chancellor should be knowledgeable about and sensitive to the diversity of the school system’s students, families, communities and constituencies. The Chancellor must be committed to, and articulate a vision for, expanding parent and community engagement as a key strategy for improving student and system-wide academic achievement. The Chancellor must develop research-based standards and best practices for effective parent engagement at school, district and system-wide levels, and provide metrics to assess schools’ and districts’ effectiveness in achieving those standards and best practices. The Chancellor must commit to regular meetings with the school system’s parent organizations. The Chancellor should establish the role of Deputy Chancellor for Family and Community Engagement as part of the Chancellor’s cabinet, and parents must be involved in the selection process. The Deputy Chancellor must exercise oversight and responsibility for systemic implementation and monitoring of parent involvement, community engagement, community partnerships and the training and supervision of Parent Coordinators, and also oversee the parent involvement requirements and operations of Special Education, ELL, and Title I. The Chancellor should strengthen the District Family Advocate’s role, and parents must be involved in the selection process. The Chancellor must establish a Citywide Leadership Team (CLT), modeled on the SLT and DLT, which should represent all education stakeholder and constituency groups such as CPAC, citywide parent groups, advocacy organizations, the UFT, the CSA, and other appropriate unions. The CLT should also include the Chancellor, the Deputy Chancellor for Family and Community Engagement, and other appropriate cabinet members. The CLT would provide an advisory forum in which parents and other education stakeholders and constituencies discuss education policy and implementation issues across the city school system. 10. PANEL ON EDUCATIONAL POLICY (PEP)*
The PEP must become a genuinely representative, diverse, consultative and deliberative policy board for the city school system. Qualifications and requirements for all PEP members should be developed, and the scope of PEP authority, powers, and responsibilities should be defined. All PEP members should have fixed terms, and be terminated only for defined reasons or causes. The mayor’s PEP appointees should include members with direct experience of students with disabilities and ELL students. The Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor for Parent and Community Engagement should have ex-officio roles on the PEP.
The PEP must publicly respond to all CEC recommendations about school utilization issues. The name of the current Panel on Educational Policy should be changed to signal a renewed commitment to family and community engagement. Note*: We urge the new mayor to act on the spirit of those CEC and PEP recommendations which are covered by state law and regulations, and to evaluate the extent to which changes in law and regulations are necessary to ultimately realize their intent.